I went out to watch the big final soccer match last night between Italy and Spain, and I ended up having a pint and a half of beer, a bag of potato chips, and a greasy kebab.
I haven’t eaten like that since I started my training diet three weeks ago. Truth be told, I haven’t actually eaten THAT bad in probably longer.
I’m trying not to beat myself up for it, but rather look at it and ask myself, why did I just let it go? I’ve been doing good on my high-protein, low-carb training diet. It’s not starving or severely calorie-restricting, and while it is a drastic change for me from my previous eating habits, still, it’s been relatively do-able up to now. Plus, I take my Coach’s suggestion to have one “cheat” meal a week, which I do on the weekend, and include whatever I want.
Problem though, is that last weekend my one cheat meal extended into a huge weekend cheat. I didn’t stay on my training diet pretty much at all through the weekend. And although I ate fairly good food at my meals, I didn’t really watch portions or carbs or the rest. And then, last night, I just let it all go.
In asking myself why, I came to one, rather sad and quite cliched (in my opinion) conclusion: “I have low self esteem.”
It’s almost stupid to even say it. It’s so generic and frankly, who doesn’t? But there are people who have healthy self-love, and generally those are people who take good care of themselves physically and mentally.
I didn’t take good care of myself this past weekend because I’ve been feeling really bad about having met a man that I liked a lot, that I thought liked me too, that I got physically involved with and then didn’t make any effort to be in touch with me.
It’s so typical, right? I guess. Only for me it’s not typical. I’m going through a crushingly difficult period of vulnerability. I want so desperately to have others, especially men (because of my painful divorce of over a year ago, the emotional fallout of which I clearly haven’t yet dealt with or healed from), validate me. I want a man to tell me I’m pretty, I’m desirable, I’m WORTHY.
When I put it out there like that, I feel almost ashamed. Really, Shelley? You want a man to tell you you’re a worthy and valuable human being? You, who earned 2/3 of a master’s degree in social work before having to leave the program to move back to Italy, you want someone outside of yourself to tell you what your Social Work Code of Ethics told you was rule number one under all circumstances: every person has intrinsic worth and dignity?
I know. It’s hard for me to fathom, too. And yet, there it is, out there in black and white.
I thought I could be someone that in my heart, I am discovering I’m not. I thought physical intimacy could fill up that gaping hole in my broken heart, that hole that tells me I’ll never be able to fully share my generous and loving heart with anyone, because … who knows why, exactly. Take your pick. I have a million and one negative reasons I use in my bad moments that affirm for me why I’m not going to ever be “chosen” by a man.
Before I start sounding like an old SNL skit (“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”) I have to really get this out there. Because I think when we try to pretend we aren’t vulnerable, or pretend like we don’t care, or like we don’t need something (physical affection, approval, compassion, whatever), then we’re just putting off the inevitable, and eventually we’re going to have to deal with it.
So here I am. Coming to terms with it. Trying to be honest and upfront with myself. Trying to admit that I don’t really know who I am right now, or what I want, but that one thing is for sure: I’m looking for something outside of myself that I won’t ever find.
Again, it sounds like a cliche perhaps to say “look within” for the answers but frankly that’s where I’m at. It’s become crystal clear to me that the more I peg all my worth and hopes on a man (or a woman if that’s the case for you, or any person or thing outside of yourself), the more I set myself up for disappointment, especially when it’s a person I don’t even know, and especially when it’s done for the reason of trying to make me feel good about myself.
No one should have to shoulder the burden of making you feel good about yourself. That should be no one’s job but your own. It’s not fair to give someone that job, and it’s not genuine. Because if you don’t discover for yourself what makes you tick, what you respect, your values, who you are, and your boundaries, especially what kind of treatment you will and will not accept from others… then certainly you won’t ever be in a position to sustain yourself during those hard times when you feel lonely, not worthy, etc. Times that everyone, even the most self-confident and self-assured person, has.
So how does all this relate back to the gym and fitness? Of course it does. Firstly I ate like complete crap because I was saying to myself and the world “Who cares. It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.” And then, I ended up feeling the worst bout of nausea, all night and through to the next morning, that I’ve felt since I was pregnant with my twins. It was truly AWFUL. My body felt AWFUL.
Secondly, I made the link between my behavior and the way I feel about myself. When I feel good about myself, I go to the gym and eat healthy. But it’s like a chicken and egg equation: which comes first? Do I feel good BECAUSE I’m going to the gym and eating healthy, or am I going to the gym and eating healthy because I want to feel good? It’s both. And the inverse to that is: when I am feeling bad about myself, I engage in behaviors that make me feel worse. I engage in self-destructive behaviors that perpetuate my feelings about myself and contribute to a nasty spirally self-fulfilling prophecy.
Today for example. I feel physically awful and morally demotivated and sad. Folks, it got so bad at one point this morning that I actually thought back to when I was going through my divorce and had taken up casually smoking a few cigarettes a day to “soothe my nerves.” There again: self-destructive behavior. Not like I’m judging or condemning, by any means. But just to show that when we feel low, I think it’s human nature to want to make those “icky” feelings go away, to cover them over, to soothe them with something, anything. And yet, the lesson here is a lot like in Zen Buddhism. Observe the feelings, watch them, examine them, observe them, but don’t judge them and most importantly don’t try to ignore them or chase them away! But in feeling all this ick, clearly the last thing I feel like doing is going to the gym. No, instead I feel like crawling into bed, pulling up the covers and never coming out again.
And yet, this is part of the lifestyle change process. It’s a part of it, and it shouldn’t be denied, covered over, or ignored.
These are the days when putting in the physical effort to keep taking care of myself matters MORE THAN ON ANY OTHER DAY.
And no one is going to do that FOR me or tell me that unless I do it for myself.
Today, the step I will take for myself to affirm my self-worth is the simple step I take every morning, but that today will have to be taken as a conscious, willful effort that says: “You are going to the gym not for any other reason today than to simply affirm to yourself that you are a good person, and therefore you deserve to be treated that way.”
If I don’t believe that, how can I ever expect anyone other than me to believe it? Going to work out today is going to be one step forward in helping me believe it.